Texas Schools Would Get Extra $50 Per Student Under Shooting Preparedness Bill

AUSTIN — School districts get an extra $50 per student to improve security under a new bill filed just ahead of the Parkland shooting anniversary.House Bill 1754 would create a school safety allotment to help districts prepare for shootings or other emergencies. Schools could use the extra cash to install physical barriers or cameras, hire security personnel, train staff and students on emergency preparedness or fund treatment programs "relating to addressing adverse childhood experiences." The allotment would be wholly funded by the state and is estimated to cost $513 million over two years, according to staff with bill sponsor Greg Bonnen, R-Friendswood. Bonnen, a neurosurgeon, has also filed another sweeping school safety bill that would expand the state's current laws regarding emergency preparedness plans. House Bill 17 would require:Schools to notify parents and guardians "as soon as possible" in the event of a bomb or shooting threat,Districts hold a public hearing if they fall out of compliance with school emergency preparedness rules, and allows the state to assign a conservator to a district if it fails to submit an emergency preparedness plan,Every classroom to have a telephone or other communication device,Schools to designate a one person responsible for making final decision in an emergency, and replacements if that person is unavailable,Schools to draw up plans for students in portable buildings,Law enforcement and local education leaders to work together on emergency preparedness, andThe state fire marshal to designate a specific number "lockdown, lockout, shelter-in-place, and evacuation" drills per semester.Both bills were filed just ahead of the one year anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fl. Just a few months later, a student at Santa Fe High School outside Houston killed 10 people. That shooting kicked off a series of roundtable discussions in the state Capitol about how to better protect students and school employees.In the Senate, Education Committee Chair Larry Taylor is expected to file his own bills to tackle emergency preparedness. Gov. Greg Abbott has made improving school safety one of his top priorities this year. But he has not yet specifically endorsed Bonnen's bills, spokesman John Wittman said Thursday."School safety is a top priority for Governor Abbott and he is committed to acting this session to make our schools safer," Wittman said. "The Governor looks forward to working with Rep. Bonnen and the rest of the legislature to develop innovative solutions to better protect our children and teachers."  Continue reading...

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